November 2012

In this Issue:

 St. Andrew's Dinner  Coming Events
 The Evolution of the Kilt  November Celebrations
 Scots of the Wild West  Society Officers
 Know the Clans  

ST. Andrew's Dinner

St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland will be honored at a dinner on Saturday, November 17, to be held at the Irish Cultural Center at 6:30pm.  This dinner will replace the regular monthly meeting usually held on the second Thursday of each month.  Tickets for adults are $5 and children are free. Music entertainment will be provided.   Scottish dress is encourage but not required.  Come show your tartan.

Wendy Hurley, President
Live! Laugh! Love!

Society Meetings - NOTE DATE CHANGE !
Starting in January 2013 our regular membership meetings are held the THIRD Thursday of each month at 6:30 pm at the Irish Cultural Center located at 1106 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix. Start time is 6:30 PM on January 17th. Come join us, or log on to

The Evolution of the Kilt - the Feilidh Mohr
By Matthew A.C. Newsome, FSA Scot, GTS (Guild of Tartan Scholars)

The kilt is perhaps the most well known emblem of Scottish heritage.  All too often our romantic ideas about its history give way to flights of fancy.  The popular sentiment imagines Neolithic Scotsmen wandering about the Highlands in kilts and clan tartans.  The real history of the kilt is not nearly as ancient as all that—but it is fascinating and worthy of being told.  To that end, I want to take a tour of the stages in the development of Scotland's national garment.

We will begin with the earliest form of anything that we may call a kilt—the grandfather of the modern kilt, the Feilidh-mhor. Its name in Gaelic means "great wrap."  Another name for this garment is Breacan-an-feileadh, which means "tartan wrap."  It should be mentioned that at this early period, tartan did not mean "clan tartan."  There were no named tartan patterns and individual tartans bore no significance as far as clan, family or district.

In common parlance this garment is typically referred to as a "great kilt" though "belted plaid" may be more descriptive.  In its most basic form it was a length of cloth, usually—though not always—of tartan.  This wrap, or blanket, was referred to as a  plaide (pronounced with a long A sound).  It was wide enough to reach from the knees to above the head (50" to 60") and was usually about four yard in length.  This length was gathered into folds and belted at the waist—hence the name "belted plaid."  The bottom fell to the knee and the upper portion was brought up over the head or shoulders and fastened in any number of ways.

The earliest record we have of this style of dress by the Scottish Gaels is an account from 1594 entitled The Life of Red Hugh O'Donnell. The author is describing a group of Hebridean soldiers under the service of  O'Donnell.  He comments on how different their dress is from the native Irish. The feilidh-mhor was perfectly suited to being outside in the Highland environment.  In addition to providing a tough outer layer of clothing, protecting from the cold, wind and rain, it served many other purposes.  As the untailored garment was essentially a blanket   belted around the body, it was used as a blanket for sleeping in at night.  It was also a form of luggage, its many folds being used to hold goods for easy transport. 

The number of yards of material for the "great kilt" has long been disputed.  Many say "no less than nine yards," others say "as long as twelve yards."  But the nine yard number has become the most popular number.  A likely explanation comes from eighteenth century military records showing soldiers being issued nine yards of cloth for their belted plaids.  However, it must be understood that the cloth was single width (typically between 25 and 30 inches wide) and two widths would be sewn together to get the desired double width of the belted plaid.  In other words, a nine yard length of cloth would be cut in half, and the two resulting pieces would be joined to make a single garment some 4.5 yards long.

Next month—the Feildigh-beag.  When one realizes that the feilidh-mhor was constructed of two single-width lengths of cloth joined together, it makes the transition to the feilidh-beag (little wrap) more logical. If the feilidh-mhor is the grandfather of the modern kilt, then the feilidh-beag is the kilt's father.  And it is here that we will pick up next time.

Scots of the Wild West
By Bowen Pearse

The American West began to be widely settled by people of European descent after the Civil War ended in the mid-1860s, and as usual, when it came to exploration, the Scots were in the vanguard.  Driven from their native land by brutal landlords, punitive governments and poverty—or in some cases a love of adventure and the urge to start a new life somewhere else—the Scots who settled the West helped to put their stamp on the development of the United States. 

Of course, Scots had been emigrating to the U.S. for more than 200 years.  One descendant who helped settle the West was John Chisholm who developed a business trading with Cherokee Indians in North Caroline and Tennessee.  In 1814 he represented the Cherokees in Washington, D.C.

John's son Ignatius, a slave trader, married the daughter of the Cherokee Chief, Cork Tassle.  Their son, Jesse, became an Indian representative and when the tribes were cleared from their homelands, Jesse Chisholm began marking out a wagon road from Kansas to the Indian Territory.  Sadly, he died of cholera in 1868, never knowing that his name would be given to a major cattle trail based on the route he had marked out. 

Scots followed many trades out West.  A large number of Highlanders were among the first fur traders.  A good number of these early Scottish settlers married into the Indian tribes.  One of many successful marriages of Scots with Native Americans was that of Scotty Philip and a relative of Crazy Horse.  Because of his wife's status, Philip gained access to Indian lands and made a great success of ranching near Pierre, South Dakota. 

 The general aim of the West's post-Civil War farmers was to increase the size of the herds in all the main species of cattle such as Longhorns.  Now the Scots who had learned the "drover" trade back in Scotland became adept at moving herds of cattle over desolate distances between railheads dotted over the landscape of America.  Major foreign investment in U.S. cattle—half of which was to be organized and funded from Scotland—was planned.  A leading investor in the Rocking Chair Ranch syndicate, which had a cattle operation southeast of the Texas Panhandle, was a relative of Sir Dudley Coutts Major banks. 

 It's not surprising that in this environment, some Scots revered to the bad old ways of cattle rustling.  Given the number of Scots in America however, these outlaws were just as likely to be shot dead by a Scottish sheriff leading a posse of Highlanders as they would have been had they poached cattle back in the old country.

Frontier life was tough and unforgiving.  Even though employed, drovers, shepherds, cowboys and gauchos were often thought of as only marginally on the right side of the law.  Their fellow settlers dreaded payday when local cowboys would come galloping into town anxious to spend their hard-earned dollars on whiskey.  One witness noted that such occasions were "as rowdy and drunken as any Falkirk Fair."

The cowboy as Wild West icon was created as early as the 1840s but didn't capture the general imagination until around 1913 when Zane Grey's hugely successful novel Riders of the Purple Sage was published.  Shortly thereafter, cowboy stories were developed for silent movies with actors such as William S. Hart and Tom Mix and later in the talkies, John Wayne.  And Scots had been very much a part of that part of American history.

Know the Clans:
What's in a Name?
By Ron Dempsey, FSA Scot


Watt is a diminutive or pet form of the person name Walter.  Other such names from Walter include Walters, Walterson, Wattie and from son of Watt are Watts, Watson, Waters, Watters.  Walter is an Old English name from a powerful warrior and is a sept of the Clan Buchanan.

The name has been documented as early as 1488 and is common in Aberdeenshire and the north east.  Since Watt is a sept of Clan Buchanan it's an ideal time to feature it as well.


Buchanan is the name of a district in Perthshire which puts the name under the category of a toponym.  The first recording of the clan is 1225 when Absalon, a supposed Celtic cleric, received lands from the Earl of Lennox.  Myth has the clan originating from an ancestor in the 11th century who was a descendent of an Ulster Irish king named O'Kyan.  They acquired land under Morris or Maurice, first chartered chief of the area in 1282.

Siding with Bruce in the War of Independence, the clan secured its status within the Scottish realm.  The lands were sold to the Duke of Montrose to alleviate debts in the 17th century.  Famous Buchanans include George Buchanan who was tutor to James I of England and James VI of Scotland. 

Coming Events

November 2-4 Tucson Celtic Festical & Highland Gamesi
November 17     St. Andrew's Day Dinner - 6:30 PM Irish Cultural Ctr
November 22 Thanksgiving Day
November 30 Jackie Sinclair - Birthday
November 30 St. Andrew's Day
December 13 Annual Holiday Potluck - Irsh Cultural Center
  Bring you favorite dish to share in Holiday spirit


November Celebrations
We are attempting to up-date our Celebration list to add information for new members and remove those from the list that are no longer relevant. If you are a dues-paying member or just a “friend” of the Society and would like your special date recognized in our monthly newsletter, we need to hear from you. Please let us know your correct birthday and anniversary information by email to and it will be included in our Celebration list.

November 2 Earl Singleton - Birthday
November 20  James Burns - Birthday
November 22     Roger & Diane Dawson - Anniversary
November 23 Gail Wylie - Birthday
November 27 Jackie Sinclair - Birthday

Caledonian Society Officers
Area Chairperson
President: (2012 – 2014) Wendy Hurley
Past President: (2010 – 2012) Jean Latimer
1st Vice President: Mark Clark
Games Chair
Jason Temple
Membership and Programs Chair Don Finch
Treasurer: Alex Cheek
Secretary: Corresponding and Recording Michael Fraiser
Trustee: Mark Pelletier
Trustee: Andy Walker
Newsletter Editor: Jo Ramsdell